We introduce a conceptual framework with social relations as the main concept and the structure and the function of social relations as subconcepts. The structure of social relations covers aspects of formal relations and social network. The function of social relations covers social support, social anchorage and relational strain. We use this conceptual framework to describe social relations in the Danish population, with questionnaire data from the Danish Longitudinal Health Behaviour Study including a random sample of each of the age groups 25-, 50-, 60-and 70-year olds, N = 2,011. The postal questionnaires were answered by a random sample in each of the age groups. The results show marked age and gender differences in both the structure and the function of social relations. The social network, measured as weekly contacts, weakens with age and so does instrumental support. Emotional support is unrelated to this decline in contact frequency and appears to be at the same level for younger and older individuals. Relational strain, measured as conflicts, declines with age for all kinds of social relations. The weakening of the social network with age does not seem to affect the level of emotional support and in turn seems to be partly compensated for by a simultaneous decline in relational strain.